Millers Point Public Housing - Question Without Notice

(2:15pm 4 April 2012, Parliament House Sydney)

Question:
My question is to the Minister for Family and Community Services. As all but four Millers Point properties marked for sale by the previous Government have now been sold, will the Minister commit to retaining the remaining Housing NSW properties for social housing, given this small and stable public housing community has a long history of connection and social support?

Answer:
Ms Pru Goward:
I thank the member for her interest and commend her ongoing commitment to the people of Millers Point. Stage one of the Millers Point sales program, as the member acknowledges, commenced in 2008 with the sale of 16 vacant properties and has stimulated private investment valued at approximately $70 million to fund the restoration of these State-significant heritage properties. Stage two of the Millers Point leasehold sales program comprises the sale of 20 houses with 99-year leases, of which 16 have been sold to date. Those 16 sales have generated revenue in excess of $23.5 million, and the stage two sales program will be completed by mid 2012. The Government is currently reviewing its strategy with regard to the future of Millers Point. In line with the Government's commitment to provide more housing for older and homeless people, this revenue is being and will continue to be used for the development of new social housing in areas of high demand such as the Cowper Street, Glebe housing project, to be delivered in the next two to three years.

Much of the social housing portfolio at Millers Point is unsuitable for clients on the housing waiting list as they are heritage listed older buildings which cannot be modified to meet modern requirements. These older heritage-style properties incur maintenance costs estimated to be five times the average maintenance cost of properties in the housing portfolio—another good reason for selling the 20 houses with 99-year leases. In the parlous financial circumstances imposed on this State by 16 years of mismanagement and an incompetent Australian Labor Party Commonwealth Government these sales make good sense for our tenants and in view of our need to fund additional supply.

I take this opportunity to update the House on the interest that has been shown as a result of the waiting list data released last week by region. I think the member will also be interested in these details given the many bedroom categories in the Sydney central business district and outlying areas that have long wait times. Today I received an update from Housing NSW in relation to the amount of interest shown on line. So far there have been almost 10,000 hits on the website from people accessing information they had never had before about waiting times across the State.

Housing NSW has also reported instances where people have come into housing offices to change their location so they, hopefully, could be housed sooner. That, again, was never an option under Labor, which hid the figures and kept the people of New South Wales and prospective tenants in the dark. The Leader of the Opposition had a hide to say on the ABC that the Government would be forcing people to change their location and that they would be left without family support. That was dishonest and misleading. Only Labor would call this a stunt when it is, in fact, a great service to potential tenants and a way of improving the service we provided. It was a disgraceful comment. No part of our release of data was about forcing anyone to change their location.

I have also been advised that Housing NSW staff have celebrated the release of this data because they are now able to give people, for once, a realistic picture of the social housing waiting list, which never occurred in 16 years under those opposite. This is all about improving services to the people of New South Wales after a very long wait under a Government that preferred spin and deceit to facts and figures.